Moving Out of State: A Guide to Moving Across State Lines

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You’ve done it: you’ve found the perfect place to live, you’ve put down the deposit, and now, you’re ready to haul your stuff across state lines and move to your new home. Moving out of state can be one of the most exciting decisions in your life, but it can also prove to be a big source of stress.

Moving out of state requires lots of planning…and lots of budgeting…and lots of patience. Whether you’re just hopping from Delaware to Maryland, or you’re traversing the country and moving from Florida to California, your move across state lines is going to require some serious work. To make it easier on you, we’ve put together some tips, questions to ask, and things to keep in mind when moving out of state. So break out your packing tape and get started – you’ve got a long road ahead (literally).

First Up: Decide On Which Method You’ll Use to Move Out of State

There are a lot of questions to ask yourself when moving across state lines, but deciding on how you’ll move will make answering the rest much easier. There are two different methods you can use:

  • Traditional mover: a moving company will move your stuff by truck from your old place to your new one. This is the most straightforward method, but it’s also by far the most expensive.
  • DIY move: you’ll rent a truck or trailer, pack up your stuff, and drive the truck and your car from your old one to your new one. You’ll take care of all the packing and unpacking at both points. This is the more budget-savvy option, but it also requires the most work on your part.

No matter which option you choose, you’ll have to be prepared to spend some serious money upfront and exert quite a bit of energy. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you choose.

If You’re Going for a Traditional Move, Keep These in Mind

A traditional moving company is extremely appealing for long-haul moves, but if you go with this option, prepare to not have your items arrive at your new home until 2-3 weeks after they leave your old one. Traditional moving companies regularly take 14 or more days to transport your stuff, so be prepared to wait on unpacking after you’ve reached your new home. 

Another key component when using a traditional mover: research. Fake moving companies are a fairly common scam: a great company will show up, offer you a killer quote, and will do a great job when they load up your stuff. But despite having already been paid, they’ll demand further payment or more add-ons when they arrive to your destination, holding your stuff hostage. It’s a trap that many fall into, especially with long-distance moves. These tips from the Better Business Bureau will help you differentiate a scam artist from a true mover. Make sure your moving company ticks all the boxes before you agree to use them.

Get Small Bits of Help if You’re DIY-ing Your Move

If you have opted to go with a DIY move, it can feel overwhelming – but even if your budget is small, you don’t have to do absolutely everything yourself. Little tasks that add up when moving can be done for you for just a small fee. Updater can update your address for you, or Bekins can help pack up your stuff. And when it comes to loading and unloading your truck, trailer, or car, Dolly can handle all the heavy lifting. We’ll connect you with our local Helpers who can take care of the heavy lifting so you can focus on getting your new home set up. Every little bit helps, especially when your move out of state involves several days and boundless energy.

Next Up: Figure Out How You’ll Move Your Car

Unfortunately, USPS doesn’t offer a flat-rate box big enough to ship your car while moving out of state, so you’ll have to move it one of two ways: drive it out yourself, or pay to have it shipped. Driving the car out yourself can take multiple days depending on how far your new home is, but it will allow you a whole car-full of stuff you’ll be able to move for (virtually) free. It’s also far more comfortable than driving out in, say, a rented moving truck.

It’s a tough decision, so if you need help seeing both sides of the argument, this Reddit thread answering the very question may be able to help you decide. Just remember that if you do decide to drive it out yourself, get your oil changed beforehand and throw a spare tire in the back – just in case!

Get Ready for New Registration and Taxes After Moving Out of State

There are plenty of places you’ll need to change your address after moving, but your car’s registration and the IRS need to be top priorities. Let’s start with the car.

No one wants to go to the DMV, but you need to get your registration changed sooner rather than later to avoid penalty fees (and getting targeted by traffic cops for your out-of-state plates). Check out sites like to see what process you need to follow in your new state to re-register your car, as well as how much you’ll have to pay. Make sure to build registration fees into your moving budget, because in some states, it can cost over $100 just to register your car (and that’s without a new set of plates).

Next up, taxes. Unless you’re moving out of one state on December 31st and arriving in the new state on January 1st, you’ll have to pay partial-year taxes in both states. You can update your address fairly easily through the IRS website, but more importantly, you’ll likely need some extra assistance during tax season to correctly file in the right states for the right periods of time. Grab coffee with a friend who works in accounting or talk to a local accounting agency to see how much this tax change will cost you (or save you) before moving so you can build it into your moving budget.

Purge Everything – Especially Furniture – Before Moving Out of State

Anytime you move, it’s recommended you get rid of everything you don’t need (we recommend the ditch-or-donate purge method no matter how far away you’re moving!). With a move across state lines, you’ll have to say goodbye to more than just knick-knacks: you need to purge your furniture.

It’s hard to say goodbye to furniture, but important to recognize that bulky, heavy pieces are going to cost you crazy amounts of money to ship to your new place. And nothing will feel worse than paying $400 to ship out your sectional, only to realize it won’t fit in the living room of your new home. So measure before deciding to keep it, and make sure the pieces will fit into the style of your new home.

If you’re really trying to purge and start as fresh as possible, the purging rules are much simpler. With a few exceptions, you should only be holding onto sentimental furniture pieces (like your grandfather’s antique dresser), mattresses (that are on the newer side), and high-end, designer furniture.

To recoup the loss of your old furniture, try listing it on OfferUp or Craigslist, or see if your home buyer is interested in buying it along with the house. If you’re doing a larger home purge, a garage sale might also be a good way to sell off lots of quality pieces at once.

Get the Cost of Moving Out of State Covered By Your Employer Or Taxes

It may seem daunting to ask your new employer to cover the cost of moving on top of salary, benefits, and any signing bonus, but if you’re moving across state lines for a job, it’s common practice for the employer to assist financially with your move.

Even if your employer isn’t willing to cover the cost, you may be able to get assistance through tax incentive programs. There are a few different ways to get reimbursed on your taxes for your move, you can check them all out here.

Pack Up…But Keep Important Items On Your Person

When you’re packing for a cross-town move can be fairly flexible: you might be able to get away with used boxes, you can throw random pieces in a box together, and you don’t have to worry about temperature control. But moving out of state requires a more coordinated packing plan, as most of your items will be sitting in boxes for up to (or over) a week. You’ll want sturdy, new boxes, and you’ll want to make sure everything is packed up fully with no gaps to avoid boxes collapsing in on each other.

When you’re packing for your cross-country move, there are a few things you shouldn’t pack up in a forgotten box. These items should stay on your person, whether that’s in a carry-on bag if you’re flying or in your backseat if you’re driving:

  • Important documents, like your birth certificate, social security card, and passport
  • Expensive jewelry or heirlooms
  • An emergency kit with some basic first aid equipment, plus your health insurance information
  • Vehicle registration and proof of insurance
  • Your passport, green card, or other citizenship documents

Additionally, any items you’re particularly concerned could get stolen (like your $6000 DSLR camera or personal laptop) should stay with you, too. Better safe than sorry!

Ship What You Can, As Much As You Can When Moving Out of State

You may think your budget is too small to afford shipping some of your stuff, but if you live near an Amtrak station, it might be worth it. Shipping via USPS or FedEx is on the more expensive side, especially for large boxes, but shipping via Amtrak may be a good option if you don’t have enough space in your moving truck or trailer. Get the lowdown on how you can ship with Amtrak in our Amtrak moving guide.

Prep Your New Home Before You Start Moving

The last thing you want to do is arrive at your new home only to find that not one of the utilities is set up, and you’re stuck in a house with no heat, no electricity, and no water. Find out from your realtor or landlord ahead of time what local utility agencies your home belongs to, then call them to make sure billing is set up correctly and your utilities are properly connected.

Not as important as water and electricity is internet. You likely won’t know until you get there how the cell reception will be at your new home, so having internet set up when you arrive (or scheduled to come set up soon after you arrive) will keep you from needing to live off the grid for a few days. Plus, you’ll get to update your Instagram feed with all those new home selfies.

Once you’ve started taking all those new home selfies, all that’s left to do is unpack and relax. Your move to a new state is a huge undertaking, and once the journey is done, enjoy the time getting to set up your new home. And should you need any truck and muscle along the way, maybe for bringing home some new furniture, or picking up your shipped boxes from the Amtrak station, you can call on Dolly for help that’ll really make your new house a home.

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